Criminal Justice News

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lapwai Man Pleads Guilty to Failing to Register as a Sex Offender and Making False Statement


COEUR D’ALENE—In two separate federal court cases, Solomon Elias Wheeler, 32, of Lapwai, Idaho, pleaded guilty today to failing to register as a sex offender and to making a false statement of material fact, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced. Sentencing is set for July 17, 2012 before U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge at the federal courthouse in Coeur d’Alene.

According to the plea agreement, Wheeler admitted that he failed to register and update a registration as required by the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). In March 2011, Wheeler was convicted in Nez Perce Tribal Court of sexual molestation of a minor under the age of 16. He was required to register as a sex offender as a result of that conviction.

In the related case, on January 28, 2009, Wheeler was interviewed by an FBI investigator about an investigation into an alleged sexual encounter between Wheeler and another individual. According to the plea agreement, during that interview, Wheeler told the investigator that he did not have sexual contact with the victim. Based on this statement, the investigation continued. On December 28, 2010, while Wheeler was incarcerated in the Nez Perce County Jail on tribal charges, the FBI investigator again met with Wheeler. Wheeler admitted that his prior statement was false and that he did have sexual contact with the victim.

The charge of failing to register as a sex offender is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and not less than five years of supervised release. The charge of making a false statement of material fact is punishable by up to five years in prison and up to three years of supervised release. Each charge carry a maximum fine of $250,000.

The cases were investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Marshals Service, and Nez Perce Tribal Police.

A violation of the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA), passed by Congress in 2006, requires sex offenders to register and keep their registration current in each jurisdiction where they reside. Violations of SORNA can be prosecuted in federal court.

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